Nova Scotia plastic bag ban - what you need to know

As of October 30, 2020, businesses in Nova Scotia will not be permitted to provide or sell plastic retail bags to customers. A plastic retail bag is a bag “made of plastic, including biodegradable or compostable plastic, but does not include a reusable bag”.

The change is being put in place to reduce waste, and to address the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic check-out bags. The regulation applies to all retailers who sell, or offer to sell, goods to the public.
The ban does not apply to a bag used to:

  • loose bulk items like fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains or candy
  • food or baked goods that aren’t pre-packaged
  • small hardware items like nails, nuts and bolts
  • frozen foods, meat, poultry or fish, whether it’s prepacked or not
  • prescription drugs from a pharmacy
  • products that can’t fit in a reusable bag
  • transporting dry cleaning
  • packaging medical supplies and health services
  • wrapping flowers or potted plants
  • protecting tires
  • transporting live fish

The sale of bags, including plastic bags, intended for use in a person’s home or business, which are sold in packages of multiple bags, is still permitted.


Does the Plastic Bags Reduction Act only apply to grocery stores?
No. The Act applies to all Nova Scotian businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, clothing stores – and the list goes on.

What type of checkout bags will be available?
Starting October 30, 2020, businesses will only be allowed to offer customers paper or reusable bags at their checkouts. Compostable or biodegradable plastic bags are not permitted.  We encourage people to bring their own.

Why aren’t biodegradable or compostable bags allowed? 
Biodegradable and compostable bags contaminate existing recycling streams and don’t adequately decompose in compost facilities in Nova Scotia. 

Do businesses have to provide a bag to customers?
No. Businesses do not have to offer any alternatives. Businesses can choose to offer paper and reusable bags for a fee or no fee. It’s up to them. 

Are businesses required to charge a fee for paper bags or reusable bags? 
No. Some businesses may choose to charge a fee, and they’re allowed to do that if they want to. We encourage Nova Scotians to bring their own reusable bags.

What is done with the fee if a business charges for paper or reusable bags?
Some businesses may choose to charge a fee, and if they do, they can decide what they want to do with the money. 

Can customers bring their own bags?
Yes. They are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. 

Are reusable bags safe to use?
Although COVID-19 has been shown to survive on surfaces, please note that this hasn’t been a main transmission method. COVID-19 can live on any surfaces, including paper, plastic and reusable bags. While reusable bags are safe to use, it’s important to wash and disinfect them regularly.

Can plastic bags still be recycled?
Yes. Please put them in a blue bag. Other film plastic, such as wrap around toilet tissue and other products, carrot bags, bread bags, etc., can also be put in curbside recycling programs. Contact your municipality for more information. 

Will businesses be permitted to sell garbage bags and dog poop bags? 
Yes. Businesses can still sell garbage bags, pet waste bags, sandwich and freezer bags, etc. 

Are there requirements for paper bags? 
No. There are no requirements. However, it is recommended that businesses distribute paper bags that contain at least 40% post-consumer recycled paper.
How will the Plastic Bags Reduction Act be enforced?  
It’s the Province of Nova Scotia’s goal to work with businesses so they understand the need to comply. 


OCTOBER 9, 2020